Bisons men’s volleyball will be under new leadership for the 2013-2014 season.
Garth Pischke, the team’s head coach for 32 seasons and professor of kinesiology at the University of Manitoba, will be taking a six-month sabbatical starting at the end of September.
Filling in for Pischke will be Cam Johnson, 35, and Ryan Ratushniak, 40, as assistant coach.
Johnson is coming to the Bisons after 14 years as a teacher and coach at Collège Jeanne-Sauvé in St. Vital. He has also coached for the University of Winnipeg and Team Manitoba. Prior to that, Johnson played for Team Manitoba and the University of Winnipeg for four years.
Ratushniak has coached over 30 club, college, and provincial-level teams from 2002 to 2013. He coached the varsity girls team at Shaftesbury High School before becoming the athletic director at Red River College and starting the men’s volleyball program. Prior to teaching, Ratushniak played for U of M for five seasons, contributing to three Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) National Championships.
Both are very familiar with the team and their style, said Pischke, who didn’t have final say but still had a strong role in choosing the two men.
"They were my recommendation," said Pischke. "They have coached all the players, pretty much all the players, so I thought that was a really nice fit to have that."
Johnson and Ratushniak have been running the team since the beginning of this year’s training.
"Already, we’re in the first week, but we can tell it’s a group that’s young but they still have a lot of volleyball experience," said Johnson. "The expectation is to learn about the game, to learn to be a good team, and to do things the right way. That will put us in a position to be really competitive, and we might surprise some of the teams."
Pischke, Johnson and Ratushniak all agree that though the team is young they have the skills to compete at the CIS level.
"We’re looking at developing these guys, and not just for the future, but for this season and really improving the whole aspect of playing volleyball," said Ratushniak. "Developing those skills, mental ability, physical ability, and I think (Johnson) has done a great job starting off creating an atmosphere of using the term ‘one-ness’ and getting the team to buy into the team concept."
Ratushniak is particularly excited to work with the young team going into the season that starts Oct. 24 against the University of Winnipeg.
"It’s just a great group of guys that are coming together really well from what we can see," said Ratushniak. "It’s exciting to work with a group like that because they are highly motivated on their own and we don’t have to do too much motivation because it’s there with this group of guys."
During his time off, Pischke said he will be working on a volleyball scouting program. He also hinted that his time as coach will soon be coming to an end as retirement nears.
"I think both these guys are potential coaches to take over the program when I’m done," said Pischke. "I’m getting close to the retirement age, so that could be in the next three or four years. I’m not sure yet."
Though he will not be behind the bench, Pischke will be nearby on the sidelines.
"I’m going to keep in very close touch with them over the course of the year," said Pischke. "I may even travel with them, not as a coach, but just to see what is going on, because this is a very young team and it might be the team that I retire with."
Pischke’s overall coaching record at the U of M is 1,233 wins and 331 losses for a win percentage of 78.79%.